>TRACKING TIME by doppio-paralleo

>reviewed by james koh

>date: 7 jun 2000
>time: 8pm
>venue: clifford pier
>rating: ***

>tired already? go home then
>review junkie? whitney, give them this click to sniff

>look, we know that you need to know that we, as responsible reviewers, have some quantifiable categories to rate productions, and are not just relying on some undefinable instinct or gut feeling. So to put your mind at ease, we will give you a logical rating system based on the practitioner's vision / and the reviewer's response of a particular production. Here it is then: ***** : Transcendent / Rapturous. ****: Crystal / Appreciative. ***: Transmitted / Thoughtful. **:Vague / Unsatisfied. * : Uncommunicated / Mystified. Yet in the end, you will feel that this is (1) a cheap attempt to justify the subjective arbitrariness of our rating system (2) buttressed by an interest in the logical (and inevitable) categorisation of such productions, which is (3) undermined by the cheapness of the attempt, and (4) confused by the creeping feeling you are getting that we are dead serious in our feeling that this rating system is an accurate description of the content, intent and quality of the production. Oh please -- does it even matter now? Look, at least we tried.

>>>>>moving on...

The soft burr of the motorised bum-boats blended in with the sound of traffic during the post-rush hour period; meanwhile, stray cats wandered about empty wooden baskets amidst the gentle sea breeze. A performing space had been marked out with a gallery of tiered seats covered with cardboard, while wooden poles strung together -- with clothes and ticket stubs hanging from them -- enclosed the space. At the front of this space, a large projector screen had been precariously tied to the ceiling. The place was Clifford Pier and the stage was set for TRACKING TIME, by Australian group Doppio-Parallelo.

First staged at the Adelaide Railway Station in the Telstra Adelaide Festival in 1998, TRACKING TIME explores the sense of loss in the transitory state of migration, the idea of displacement in the human experience with urban space and the search for a symbolic idea of a home in the ever-increasing global nation. A host of characters slowly revealed their stories of dislocation, their personal histories told as painful confessions, from a Vietnamese Australian businessman who finds the Asian warrior within him, to the East European selling body parts, to the punk trying to escape from the law. Meanwhile the narrator, constantly twisting and contorting his body, was a figure caught in the throes of time and recited out loud international dates of death and exile, marking the passage of time, its finality and inevitability.

>>'the audience was constantly in a state of distraction, an appropriately vicarious feeling akin to the sense of dislocation when embarking on a journey'

In searching for a place that has what creative director Teresa Crea called 'a history of a transient flow of people', the company decided to stage TRACKING TIME at Clifford Pier. This is highly apt as Clifford Pier used to be a busy and bustling site where migrant workers entered Singapore via ferries and boats and their untold personal histories added a note of poignancy to the stories that were now portrayed.

This performance-visual arts installation was a highly textured piece, with music, text and movement intricately bound with the installation works by local artists that surrounded the performing space and the video that was projected on the screen. While a character was telling his/her story, the others would be dancing/moving in unison to music, an uncertain balance between an individual and his or her position in the larger forces of time. At the same time, images of the performance taken by a video-recorder placed at the side of the performing space were superimposed with black and white images of migrant workers from Singapore's history, suggesting perhaps the universality of each personal journey. Meanwhile, Tessa Miller as a vagabond pushing her cart around the stage, filled the large space of Clifford Pier with her haunting voice, a note of hope amidst the fragmentation.

This dense layering, this multitude of signifiers at play, were like the small details of a painting, that when taken as a whole, provided a highly sensory experience. Yet at times when the actors all started babbling at once, this Babylon of voices -- together with the whirl of details -- all screamed out for attention. As such, the audience was constantly in a state of distraction, an appropriately vicarious feeling akin to the sense of dislocation when embarking on a journey.

Yet for all the relevance in staging TRACKING TIME at Clifford Pier, it has to be said that the acoustics of the pier was inadequate, such that the words spoken by the actors (even with the aid of microphones) were muffled and at times they sounded incoherent. This was not helped by the incredibly thick Australian accents that some of the actors had. As a result, the fine balance between the unique-ness of each story and the universality of the tale was lost, where the audience was not able to engage with the intensity of each personal experience revealed. And it has to be said that for all the clever use of space along the pier, the enclosed performing space was too confined to allow the ideas explored by the play to resonate clearly.

Yet for all these setbacks, TRACKING TIME skillfully showed that amidst the temporal disaster of change and upheaval, the timeless pattern of his/her-story would survive.